This group is the irish duo of Deirdre Forrest and her Uncle, Tom Johnston. “Gra Na Firinne” is Beannacht’s debut CD, released in 2011. It is a voice and acoustic guitar album with some bodhran and whistle playing from Tom, but not much. For a Debut CD it is quite impressive especially given the songs are original.
Beannacht means “blessing” and the album’s title translates to “love of truth”.
They won the “Best New Act” award in 2011 from the Jersey Acoustic Music Awards. Playing a blend described as Celtic, blues and folk, Beannacht seemed a little light on the Celtic sound to me and should be considered mostly folk and blues on this CD in the style of Alison Krauss music, with a little Celtic influence. Of course all folk and blues songs have Celtic influences anyway.
What is incredible is that Tom and Deirdre wrote all the songs on this album and that is never an easy thing. Tom wrote most of the music while Deirdre much of the lyrics. Deirdre won Best Female Songwriter at the 2012 Jersey Acoustic Music Awards.
Download it at the CDbaby Store here:
Beannacht-Tracks on Gra Na Firinne
The following are the tracks on this CD and some comments.
“Lead You to the Promised Land”. Wow! I was impressed right away. The musicianship is a basic Folk duet sound but this track is really well written musically and lyrically.
“Upon Your Ocean”. Every bit as good as the first song on the album. Reminiscent of an early Simon and Garfunkel song. I’m highly impressed by the writing of this duo so far even though the whistle playing was a little weak and shy on this track.
“Why’d You Go?”. A little sluggish but not a bad song. I felt like I wanted to hear stronger, more secure, sounding vocals and a little more guitar work.
“In the Wake of the Morning After”. A little more upbeat and swinging.
“And I Love”. You can tell Deirdre and Tom love the music they make together. There is a lot of tenderness, pride and thought put into the words and music. I loved the simple poetic verse of this song. It worked. Deirdre really has a damn good voice that stays clear throughout this album. I just wish she would seem more confident belting out a tune and not hold back.
“Written on Both Sides”. A rocking jazzy song with off-beat harmonies. It’s very peppy and shows Beannacht can get your toes tapping if they want. Some harmonic vocals helped here.
“Love of Truth”. The title song.
“Roaming Knave”. Deirdre’s voice is very even and clear, always. Her voice is not the most unique nor does it have a great range, but it is pleasant, genteel and easy to listen to. I’d love to hear her do some standard Irish songs. This tune has an interesting arrangement, which I enjoyed.
“Better Angels of Our Nature”. Tom sings lead on this one. Very lovely poetic lyrics but it sounded too much like the music was written to accommodate the words and I’m not sure it worked well, though not bad. A little too repetitive in delivery and so lost my interest.
“Lovin’ Aint Ever Wrong”. Very bluesy! Deidre shows her sultry side here and gets pretty sexy on this number. A solidly penned tune in a traditional blues style.
“Moving Forward”. Tom sings the lead on this one. He also wrote the words and music. Not an uplifting piece and downright depressing, but if that was the desired effect it worked well. Not everything about life is pleasant and that’s part of good art.
“Quiet Desire”. Deirdre wrote the words and music. This track is only a bodhran playing a steady beat and Deirdre singing. It does show her ability to carry a tune (and stay in tune) with her crystal clear voice. Her voice never sounded better.
I would not shy away from purchasing this CD if I were you and you have the chance. Tom and Deidre are good up and coming artists that need to be recognized for their contribution to the Celtic folk genre. It’s not often we have reviewed a CD that was entirely written by the musicians and singers. This is a decent CD to add to your less rowdy collection of Celtic music.
The recording and mixing on “Gra Na Firinne” is very well done by Brian Ostering at Main Street Studios. Guest musicians are Michael Brett, lead acoustic guitar on “In the Wake of the Morning After” and Melissa Anthony and Moon Motel, backing vocals and percussion on “Written on Both Sides”.
Download it at the CDbaby Store here: